Orgasm, what is it? There’s the science - “the highest point of sexual excitement, characterized by strong feelings of pleasure and marked normally by ejaculation of semen by the male and by involuntary vaginal contractions in the female.” Medical, efficient, aseptic. Then there is life - and words fail men and women to fully define the physical and emotional flood of sensations they experience at the peak of a sexual relation.
Few feelings are more basic and natural to human beings, yet for centuries the very word has become obscene, albeit selectively – almost exclusively for women.
In conservative societies, a high wall of taboo and shame surrounds women’s sexual desires. Georgia is no exception - society still struggles to come to terms with the concept of gender inequality, but female orgasm is beyond that and women’s sexual pleasure is not acknowledged, as if it does not exist. The word “orgasm” prompts discomfort, alarm and embarrassment. Professionals working on the matter - be it from a medical, psychological, or sociological perspective - are few and hard to find in the capital Tbilisi. Outside it, they hardly exist.
“When it comes to women, sex is immediately related to its reproductive function,” explains Ira Silanteva of the Tbilisi-based organization- Women's Initiatives Supporting Group. “When it comes to women, our society basically recognizes two icons, [that] of a good wife and mother, and [that] of ‘a woman of light behavior.’ One has to pick from those options. Custom has it that a woman with sexual desires doesn’t fit in the standards of "good wife” or “role-model mother” and she will be the subject of judgment.
The 29-year old researcher stresses that women’s sexuality is “culturally repressed.” It has been objectified and kept under control for centuries - whether by stressing the divide between mothers and “loose women” or by establishing male-dominated customs and rules, also in relation to the perception of what sex is. Georgia and its conservative, patriarchal society is no exception. Women are raised with the notion that a man rules, and women are instilled from a very early age with the notion of how important it is to please men - be it a father, husband or son.
Women themselves often fail to acknowledge their own sexual pulses and when they do, they are afraid to talk about them. The ones who dare, are immediately clichéd as “indecent.” “As a girl grows up, the repression of her sexual desires increases, while society allows men to experiment freely and have various sexual partners,” adds Silanteva.
"Sexual awareness, what erogenous zones are and how to find them, experimenting with different poses, orgasm techniques – most of the patients know nothing about all of this," notes Keti Jinjolava, an obstetrician and gynecologist, who has been assisting women on health and sexual issues for six years. "Patients are unlikely to enquire about orgasm. When I ask them, it becomes clear that many women have a problem of experiencing it. Most of them think everything should be the way it is. However, an entire intercourse may be unpleasant, not to mention with the absence of an orgasm. Often women don’t seek their individual pleasure; they just adjust to their partner".
In the capital, women can be freer and relatively more independent, so social pressure eases, but beyond Tbilisi’s border, the reality is bleak - virginity until marriage and loyalty to a single man remain imperative for women. Rising access to the Internet is shedding a new light, but information about sex in the Georgian language is scarce and the lack of systematic sexual education in schools keeps young girls in the dark.
Taboos around women and sex perpetuates ignorance at best, and leads to violence and breaching fundamental human rights at its worst. Girls’ behaviors are often the spotlight in public discussions, including a talk-show on television where the mantra of arriving virgin at the altar or how “indecent” those women are who lied about their virginity and insulted their own families as a result. Illiteracy and strictly traditional customs have also led to cases of female genital mutilation.
Private conversations with Georgian women show a lack of intimacy after a sexual act – “he doesn’t ask for any feedback [how I felt or how it was] and I don’t offer any.” Paradoxically, the lack of expectations from the intercourse and knowledge about what it could be like means that women deliberately remain silent about it.
“Women lack sexual education and self-awareness, while men neglect their partners’ sexual experiences and their authenticity. This is a lose-lose situation for both; a sexually satisfied woman is physically and psychologically more attractive for a man as well, certainly more than a fake orgasm,” mentions Jinjolava. After all, there is not a man who wants to find himself in a foolish and embarrassing situation such as in the legendary scene of the film “When Harry Met Sally,” where the actress Meg Ryan fakes a mindblowing orgasm in the middle of the café while… having sex? No, eating a salad!
Maia Chavchanidze, a Georgian sexologist who authored the book “Propaedeutic of Clinical Sexology,” maintains that sexology is too closely linked to socio-cultural aspects that it can not be a “conservative science” but it should keep pace and respond to the changing times.
The lack of a systematic sexual education and the abundance of social taboos means that “women’s happiness” is left in the suburbs of thought. Yet, constraints and taboos are constructed by society and a society consists of people, who have sex and experience orgasm. Whether we consider it complex, beautiful, or indecent, one thing is certain – orgasm is human, and speaking of humanity isn’t a shame.